17 March 2023

Don't let it slip away

This complete rainbow was photographed at 30,000 feet by Lloyd J. Ferraro.

"The 'Private Sector' Is Government 'Contracting Out' Its Functions: We live in a society, and getting things done for society is what government is for. Government is society's way to make decisions about society's resources, economy and future. Period. Anyone who tells you you don't need government, or that government shouldn't do this or that, is actually just trying to BE the government, for their own benefit. EVERY decision about society's resources, economy and future is made by government, one way or another. Period. Every. Single. One. Socialism, capitalism, communism, dictatorship, aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy, etc are just descriptions of how that decision-making is divided up. It's about who makes the decisions and who gets the benefits. All the 'ideological' battles are really just all about keeping the public from understanding that."

"Why Is Larry Summers So Obsessed With Tech Bros? The former Treasury secretary’s business partnerships may have influenced his early calls to bail out Silicon Valley Bank. For the past two years, former Treasury secretary Larry Summers has begged, berated, and bullied federal policy-makers to suck as much wealth as possible, as fast as possible, out of the economy. He just never meant, you know, his wealth or his friends’ wealth. When Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), which caters to venture capitalists and tech start-ups, collapsed last week, Summers rushed to protect his professional colleagues and fellow elites from the consequences of policies he’s pushed for. In Summers’s eyes, when tech moguls make obvious mistakes, it’s catastrophic for them to face consequences for their actions. But when workers want debt relief, sick days, or higher wages, they’re destroying the whole economy with their greed."

"Senate Did NOT Just Unanimously Pass a Bill Requiring Declassification of 'All of the Information' Regarding the Origins of Covid: Contrary to the claims of Sen. Hawley and other sponsors, the legislation only instructs the DNI to release information relating to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. No examination of others. Some senate Republicans are claiming they are putting forward legislation that will solve the Covid origins question but that's not what the legislation does. The sponsors of a bill that recently unanimously cleared the senate are claiming that the resolution would mandate that the federal government declassify all relevant information on Covid origins. This is completely inaccurate. The resolution would only have the Director of National Intelligence release documents relating to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but not information of other institutions, including US institutions, which might share culpability. Nor does it declassify DNI information relating to other possible causes of the pandemic. [...] In addition, while Hawley's statements that if his bill was enacted, 'then we can get this thing done … let's show them what the government has. Let everybody see it for themselves, let everybody read it.' are misleading. This is because much information sought by the transparency group U.S. Right to Know and some media organizations is not classified but is being withheld."

Joe Biden apparently thinks he can do anything to stop Republicans from claiming he and the Democrats are soft on crime. He can't. That will never happen. But the attempt is ugly: "To be more specific, since Ron Klain's departure from the White House, the administration has undertaken what looks like a strategic rollout of unprincipled new policies and proposals that will neither reduce crime levels nor outflank Republicans on the issue, but that have generated some news stories about Biden trying to appear 'tough on crime.' The ideas include reviving Trump-era family detention policies along the southern border, imposing longer sentences on convicted criminals if they've been accused or even acquitted of other crimes, and using federal power to nullify the District of Columbia's, new criminal code, which wasn't actually 'soft on crime,' but did get portrayed as such by Fox News. Yes. This Fox News. That last one has thrown the party into disarray, when the alternative of not throwing his party into disarray, while doing the right thing, was right there for the taking." And it's even worse than it sounds. More on this at Slate.

The party of free speech warriors strikes again. "Florida bill would require bloggers to register before writing about DeSantis: A bill proposed this week by a Republican state senator in Florida would require bloggers who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), his Cabinet officers and members of the Florida legislature to register with the state."

Hm, this is curious. "Top Ohio Republican, Ex-House Speaker Larry Householder, Was Convicted Of Taking A $60 Million Bribe — But No One Was Charged With Bribing Him: Usually, in the case of powerful politicians who take bribes, we see the bribers being charged with crimes while the bribees never get a second glance from law enforcement. The perfect example is the current FTX scandal, where over $100 million in stolen funds— paltry compared to the $8 billion that was stolen— went to powerful politicians from both corrupt political parties. Sam Bankman-Fried, the mastermind, faces life in prison, while not a single recipient of those millions of dollars who be bought has been so much as questioned by law enforcement! The opposite just happened in Ohio— where FirstEnergy executives bribed the state GOP but no one got in any trouble but a high level Republican scapegoat and one dumb lobbyist. None of the bribers have been charged... but today the bribee and the lobbyist were finally found guilty."

"The Checkered Past of the Contractor Monitoring the Air in East Palestine: CTEH has been cited by lawmakers for 'releasing findings defending the corporate interests that employ them.' A contractor for Norfolk Southern that is conducting air quality monitoring in East Palestine, Ohio, has a controversial history of what critics have described as inaccurate testing tilted toward the corporations that hire it. The company has been the subject of several lawsuits over its conduct, and members of Congress have warned corporations not to hire the firm in the past. [...] In 2010, then-Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA) and Peter Welch (D-VT) wrote to BP CEO Tony Hayward, warning him not to use CTEH to monitor health exposures of workers cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill. 'CTEH has a history of being hired by companies accused of harming public health and releasing findings defending the corporate interests that employ them,' the lawmakers wrote. Welch is now serving in the U.S. Senate; his office did not return a request for comment."

"Leaked audio reveals US rail workers were told to skip inspections as Ohio crash prompts scrutiny to industry: Exclusive: employee says manager told her to stop marking cars for repair, as Ohio derailment brings hard look at industry's record of blocking safety rules [...] In late 2016, Stephanie Griffin, a former Union Pacific carman, went to her manager with concerns that she was getting pushback for tagging – or reporting for repair – railcars. Her manager told her it was OK to skip inspections. Griffin asked if the manager could put that in writing. 'That's weird,' said the manager. 'We have 56 other people who are not bad-ordering stuff out there. You're definitely not going to get in trouble for it.' Griffin said: 'He refused to bad-order [mark for repair] cars for bad wheel bearings. My boss took issue with it because it increased our dwell time. When that happened, corporate offices would start berating management to release the cars.' Dwell time refers to the time a train spends at a scheduled stop without moving. 'It's very obvious that management is not concerned with public safety, and only concerned with making their numbers look good,' Griffin said."

"Centrist Democratic PAC's Sole Funder Is A Republican Megadonor: The Moderate PAC, created to go after progressive primary challengers, received all its money from one source: Republican megadonor Jeffrey Yass. A CADRE OF moderate Democrats and Republicans are joining together to revamp a political action committee to fight against progressive primary challengers to establishment Democrats. With President Joe Biden's former campaign manager as the PAC's only consultant and a defense contractor executive as its treasurer, the Moderate PAC — not to be confused with the older Moderate Democrats PAC — stands to be an exemplar of the Democratic Party's corporate-friendly, centrist wing. Its financial heft, though, comes from the other side of the aisle: So far, Republican megadonor Jeff Yass, the richest man in Pennsylvania, is virtually the only one putting money into the group."

Conservatives — well, some of them — seem to be admitting that some regulations are necessary. The Rude Pundit reports.

"Steak Dinners, Sales Reps and Risky Procedures: Inside the Big Business of Clogged Arteries [...] The suit, filed in 2017 by a sales representative for a competing medical device firm, alleges an illegal kickback scheme between Medtronic and hospital employees. According to the complaint and documents released in the suit, between 2011 and 2018, VA health care workers received steakhouse dinners, Apple electronics and NASCAR tickets, and in turn, Medtronic secured a lucrative contract with the hospital. Meanwhile, the company's representatives allegedly 'groomed and trained' physicians at the facility, who then deployed the company's devices even when it was not medically indicated. [...] The hospital investigation found that amputations increased sixfold in the same time frame as the procedures in question, according to internal emails, but made no conclusion about whether those two things were connected. ProPublica reached out to the VA to ask whether any patients had been harmed."

"To NYT's Peter Baker, Acknowledging Trans People's Existence Is 'Activism,' Openly Advocating for Perpetual U.S. Occupation of Afghanistan Isn't: What is and isn't 'activism' depends entirely on how conservative the activism is. The line between 'journalism' and 'activism' is a sacred, cherished one for elite reporters, just don't ever ask them to define what either of these concepts mean. It's more of a vibe, not a consistent set of principles they apply on a day-to-day basis."

I've been seeing right-wing claims that Silicon Valley Bank failed because it was "woke", a formulation based on a right-wing think-tank's claim that it donated an astonishing amount of money to Black Lives Matter. In fact, it lists lots of corporate giving to BLM and apparently this money was given specifically to foment black violence. Like there is any reason in the world a bunch of money-men would do that. Josh Marshall did some digging: "The claims come from a database posted earlier this week by the Center for the American Way of Life, a project of the Claremont Institute. As Claremont put it in a Newsweek article introducing the database, 'Americans deserve to know who funded the BLM riots.' [...] Perhaps I missed some citation in those 9 documents to back up the $73 million claim about SVB. But if I did it's almost certainly nowhere near that sum, and it almost certainly means 'BLM' in the sense of college scholarships for Black high schoolers, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or some program at the American Heart Association to reduce the incidence of heart disease among Black people. The vast majority of the organizations are highly mainstream and even corporate in their focus (supporting minority-owned small businesses, recruiting minority employees in STEM fields). The ones that aren't mainly focus on housing, closing gaps in medical care in minority communities and supporting STEM education and coding. In many cases, the cited documents include no information to support the purported dollar amounts at all. In some cases a claim about one corporation is backed up with a document about another corporation entirely. So there's a high degree of slapdash and incompetence involved. But the general message is that anything in any way connected to Black people in pretty much any way is 'BLM riots,' and explicitly supporting mayhem and violence."

"The False Promise of Term Limits:Limiting lawmakers' time in office only exacerbates the problems with our government. [...] Yes, you may get fresh blood with term limits. But what you get with it is legislative amateurism, short-term stints in which lawmakers can't develop skills or expertise, and effective, public-spirited officials are forced out on the altar of the new and novel. Washington is already mired in dysfunction and marred by corruption and influence peddling. Term limits would make that worse, robbing Congress—and thus voters—of the ability to course correct, much less check the expansive power of the presidency. [...] There are real problems in the structure of American democracy. The solution is to face and fix those problems head-on rather than lean on an assumed panacea that will hurt more than help, while robbing voters of their right to choose who they want to represent them, and for how long."

Americans keep telling me that the US is going to scrap changing between Daylight Savings and Standard time this year, but I'm sorry to tell you that, no, that plan died on the vine. "Permanent Daylight Saving Time Bill Just Made Clock Change More Annoying." Yeah, the Senate actually passed it last year, but it never even came to the floor in the House once the lobbyists got to them.

"Sir Terry Pratchett: Short stories to be published after being found by fans: A collection of 20 recently rediscovered short stories by late fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett is to be published later this year. Sir Terry wrote the stories for a regional newspaper under the pseudonym Patrick Kearns in the 1970s and 80s. They had not previously been attributed to him, but have now been collected after a search by 'a few dedicated fans', publishers Penguin said."

RIP: "Richard Belzer, Extraordinarily Smart-Ass as a Comic and a TV Cop, Dies at 78: The stand-up legend and 'Groove Tube' actor played Det. John Munch on 'Homicide: Life on the Street,' 'Law & Order: SVU' and eight other shows." I loved him as Munch, but I admit it wasn't enough to make me watch Law & Order. Here's a bunch of nostalgic photos.

"Helen Reddy, 'I Am Woman' Singer and Activist, Dead at 78: HELEN REDDY, THE Australian singer whose early Seventies song 'I Am Woman' has served as an empowering feminist anthem for several generations, died Tuesday at age 78. Her children, Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers, confirmed the news via her official Facebook page." I admit, I was never crazy about the song, but I know it was important to a lot of people.

"Comparing Health Outcomes of Privileged US Citizens With Those of Average Residents of Other Developed Countries [...] This study suggests that privileged White US citizens have better health outcomes than average US citizens for 6 health outcomes but often fare worse than the mean measure of health outcomes of 12 other developed countries. These findings imply that even if all US citizens experienced the same health outcomes enjoyed by privileged White US citizens, US health indicators would still lag behind those in many other countries."

"This all-but-forgotten con man sold America on 'fake it till you make it' [...] When newly minted salespeople found it impossible to make a go of it, they were told to 'fake it until you make it,' by wearing expensive clothes and waving around $100 bills to lure in others, a disillusioned Oregon recruit testified in court in 1972. A few months later, another seller would tell a Florida courtroom that he, too, had been instructed to 'fake it till you make it.' When the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against Turner's company, a judge cited the phrase as evidence of malfeasance."

Seymour Hersh, 1972, "The Massacre at My Lai: A mass killing and its coverup."

"Forty years of Monster Raving Loony wannabe MPs [...] Recently, the party announced that, once in government, it would give atheism charitable status because it is a 'non-prophet organisation'."

I was just trying to find an old post I still can't find and stumbled on a completely unrelated old post from 2003 that I'd completely forgotten about but rather like, on the terror reign of the raging left-wing on college campuses, back in the days when my blog had more writing and less copy-pasting.

"Psychic Chicken of Seattle: Deep into the lower floors of Pike Place, find a date with fowl fate. "

Interactive Map Shows Which Indigenous Lands You Are Living On

The Righteous Brothers, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling"